We’re just one little day away from WWDC 2011 and while we now know for a fact that Steve Jobs will introducing iOS 5, iCloud and Mac OS X Lion, we know very little more than that in terms of what these new products will actually do (with the possible exception of Lion). And we all know that when facts are scarce, that’s when the rumour mill gets its cogs turning so keep reading for a round-up of what we might see tomorrow and what we would be announcing were we in charge in Cupertino!
By this stage, iOS is already a mature, carefully-considered and well fleshed-out mobile OS, but every year the bar is raised to ensure that it stays one step ahead of its competitors. The rumours we’re hearing about iOS 5 are that we can expect a long overdue make-over for notifications, and by that I mean both the visual and behavioural way that iOS notifies of new events such as texts, emails and push notifications, and the way it lets us access them. There is strong evidence to suggest that jailbreak dev Peter Hajas has been employed by Apple to assist in this area, and if the video below demonstrating his own solution is anything to go by we should be in for something far more exciting and substantial than the current notification system.
The second very strong and likely new feature is auto-updates for apps. MacRumours has stumbled upon text which appears when asking iTunes to check for app updates. It says that “if your device has Automatic Download enabled for apps, your updates will download to your device without having to sync.” Of course, there is no such setting right now so it seems a no-brainer that this will materialise in iOS 5, although hopefully it will only work over (or can be manually restricted to) WiFi and will somehow let you know it’s happening.
What else? Well how does deep Twitter integration sound to you? Respected blog Techcrunch are reporting that Twitter integration will permeate throughout iOS 5 allowing you to share your photos via a one-tap button baked into the OS and accessible system-wide. This could be cool but we’d love to see other options too including Flickr and Facebook so that this is useful to as many people as possible.
So, what would we be announcing as part of iOS 5 if we were Steve Jobs? Well, first and foremost we’d make sure that any new notification system also incorporated notifications on the lock screen. This is something that iPhone users have been crying out for for years and there is so much wasted screen real estate that could be elegantly put to use that it would be madness for it to be missed out once again.
We’d also be hoping for a file system of some kind that links in with cloud storage. I’ve written about this a couple of times now, but ultimately we’d like to see support for a range of cloud services including dropbox. It could be that this is something that iCloud will do, but it’s unclear at this stage just what iCloud is for – whether it’s just music or other stuff too. Which leads us to…
iCloud is probably one of Cupertino’s worst-kept secrets, and it seems to me that there’s good reason for this: Amazon and Google have actually beaten Apple to the market with cloud storage for music streaming and it can only be a good thing for Apple to have a steady trickle of information making its way to the public domain so that, without actually giving away very much, Apple has a way of ensuring that existing iTunes users don’t start to defect or invest too heavily in the opposition in this interim period.
Nobody actually seems to know exactly what iCloud will do, or what its boundaries or limitations will be. We do know that it will involve music in one way or another as several reports have suggested that Apple has signed deals with all of the major record companies allowing them to handle and charge for streaming versions of their content. The current consensus seems to be that iCloud will allow users to store their iTunes music libraries on Apple’s servers and have that content streamed to them wherever they are over the net. There are some conflicting reports over whether this will involve actually uploading your music (let’s hope not) or whether iTunes will simply scan the contents of your existing local library and simply replicate it in the cloud.
But what else will iCloud do? That’s the mystery that is still to be revealed. If we were Apple, we’d be setting up iCloud as fully-fledged storage service along the lines of Dropbox and with the purpose of replacing the now very dated iDisk. Being able to download from Safari, save email attachments and pull music all from one central source that fits in perfectly with the rest of the Apple eco-system is an extremely attractive proposition for many users and Cupertino could have a real winner on its hands if it does it right.
Whatever it does, we do seem to know the cost. The LA Times claims that the service will be free initially with an eventual price-tag of US$25 per year. That seems to quash any idea that iCloud will be a complete replacement for MobileMe as was often heard during the early days of this service being rumoured – it seems highly unlikely that Apple would take an existing service, add a ton of new stuff to it and then make it way cheaper, but you never know.
We’ll be covering iCloud closely and once all the details are available (i.e. tomorrow) we’ll be going hands-on and giving you the full low-down on how to take advantage of whatever new capabilities it brings to iOS.
Mac OS X Lion
OS X Lion may be a little off-radar for us as an iOS site, but with this new version of Mac OS now becoming more closely aligned to iOS this iteration is worth a mention. We know from the developer previews that the UI has had a light touch-up to bring it into line with iOS in some places, and there are some new features such as Launchpad which will allow you to launch your apps from a new screen that borrows heavily from the iPhone / iPad home screen. Apps are also going full-screen and the Mail app has been redesigned to mirror the elegance and simplicity of iOS Mail.
There are dozens of new features in Lion but we’ll let the other sites go over those. A June 14th launch is rumoured at this stage but one thing you can be sure of is that it will be available via the Mac App Store and if Apple’s Mac App Store pricing for existing products versus their physical media versions is anything to go by it should be an affordable upgrade.
Surprises / One More Thing
I very much doubt we’ll see the iPhone 4S / 5 announced tomorrow as there’s already plenty there to keep shareholders and customers happy. Apple does like to surprise at these events, though, so that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any other reveals. One rumour already gaining momentum is a replacement for Apple’s Airport / Time Capsule range.
We could well see these receive a revolutionary rather than evolutionary update – the rumours out there range from it running iOS and being armed with an A4 or A5 chip with the purpose of acting as a central source for pushing iOS and app updates to all of your devices, to it storing all of your files from music and movies through to spreadsheets and Word docs which it then shares over the web via iCloud.
What would we do? Well, we’d like to see the Time Capsule models beefed up to act as storage not just for your Time Machine backups but also act as an iTunes server. Instead of your Mac or PC holding your iTunes library, the library would be held in this new Airport Base Station / Time Capsule and built-in iTunes Home Sharing software would share it with all your devices from your MacBook to your Apple TV to your iPhone. That way, there would be no dependence on your computer being switched on 24/7 to make full use of things like the Apple TV’s streaming capabilities. And since it’s also the device that manages your internet connection it could hook right into your iCloud account and serve up whatever you’ve got stored there to your devices, too.
So, that about sums it up. What are you hoping to see tomorrow? Let us know in the comments.